Max Golden 3/17/2005-8/27/2007

Max Golden 3/17/2005-8/27/2007, originally uploaded by kfoz.

One of the memorable dogs in "DOGS I HAVE MET" is Max, who inspired the chapter titled "A Unique Dog." Just days before the book began shipping I heard from Erin that Max had passed away. With her permission, I'm sharing her letter and in the comments section, the original email she sent me about their unique dog:

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you knew our dog Max personally, and those of you who didn't had certainly heard all about him and how he had the rare genetic bleeding disorder hemophilia. This Monday morning around 7:00 AM, Max passed away. He was fighting to recover from an injury he had obtained a week earlier.

On the 18th we had taken Max and our other little dog Dobby down to my parents' place in the country so Max could swim in the creek, one of his favorite activities and the safest form of exercise for a hemophiliac. My sister’s horse had recently been moved into a temporary wire-fenced pasture on my parents' property. When we were getting Max out of the car, he bolted out of the back, slipped out of our grasp, and flew into the pasture along with two of the other family dogs. Before anyone could even react, the horse was bucking and running, the dogs were barking and chasing, and Max was rolling on the ground. We think he got kicked or clipped in the hind quarters and hit his head when he rolled on the ground.

After we got all the dogs out of the horse pen, they all seemed fine, and Max was okay the rest of the day. That night, though, when we got Max home, he wouldn't put any weight on his back right leg. We took him to the vet and he got his first transfusion, which is, of course, how bleeding is stopped in a hemophiliac. On Sunday, he seemed completely fine, but we kept him quiet, iced his leg, and put him on his pain medication for three days just to be sure. By Wednesday, he was completely himself again, and we were so relieved.

But then on Thursday he seemed very lethargic and sore and disinterested in anything except a few dog treats. We took him in to the vet again Thursday evening, and his blood work revealed that he wasn't bleeding, so the vet recommended we restart his pain medication and keep him quiet. She also noticed a bruise in his right eye and said to watch it.

Friday morning, he was even more lethargic, and both eyes had bruises, so we immediately took him back in for another transfusion. This one didn't seem to affect him much, as transfusions always had before, and we were terrified. Sat. night we went back to the vet. Again, tests showed that he wasn't bleeding, and X-rays showed no damage to bones and no fluid in his heart or lungs. Back home we went.

By Sunday morning, Max began having difficulty putting any weight on his back legs and had obvious head pain. By noon, he couldn't sit up; then he couldn't walk; then he lost bladder control. We rushed him back to the vet, and they started a third transfusion. Meanwhile, I was consulting with an incredible woman I'd found via the Internet, Jean Dodds, a veterinary hematologist and expert in CA who runs Hemopet, the blood bank we purchased Max's plasma products from. She predicted that despite the seemingly normal blood tests, Max was bleeding into his brain and/or spine, thus causing the paralysis. She said he needed at least 3-4 transfusions in the next 24 hours, so our vet continued with the plasma.

Then at 1:30 AM on Monday, the vet called to say that after Max's fourth transfusion, he seemed to be doing worse, not better as we'd hoped and prayed. The paralysis had worsened, and when she did a deep pain clamp test on his back legs, he didn't even notice. This meant the paralysis was permanent whether from bleeding or from a clot, we don't know. But even if Max recovered, he would be permanently paralyzed.

Therefore, we made the agonizing decision to have him euthanized because he was deteriorating so rapidly. Around 6:30 AM on Monday the 27th, which in a cruel twist of irony also happened to be my birthday, Dave, my mother, our dog Dobby, and I headed to the clinic to say goodbye and to be with Max when he went. They carried Max in and put him on his bed, which I had brought from home. We could tell as soon as we saw him that he was already in the process of dying, and we knew then that as heartbreaking as our decision was, it was what Max needed. We petted him, talked to him, and fed him his favorite snack, bacon. He relaxed visibly with his head in my lap and with his family and his brother around him. Then when we were ready, the vet came in and gave him the injection. We held him while she did it, and he was already so close to passing that within five seconds of the needle going in, he was gone.

Dave, Dobby, my family, and I are all devastated. Despite his hemophilia, Max was an amazing, friendly, and intelligent dog who managed to live a full, albeit short, life. He had earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate, scored at the top of his obedience classes, become certified with me to do Animal Assisted Therapy as Pet Partners through the Delta Society, and volunteered with the Texas Central Hemophilia Association, where he met others who, as one little boy said, had "special blood" just like his. We miss Max desperately, and hope you all will understand if you do not hear from us for a while.

MAX GOLDEN March 17, 2005-August 27, 2007


kfoz said…
December 1, 2006

Dear Mr. Foster,

Like you, I am also an animal-lover who’s been involved in pet rescue, and after reading The Dogs Who Found Me, I thought I would write to you about an unusual situation with my own dog, Max.

On November 29, 2005, my husband David and I adopted eight-month old Max, a male German shepherd/Border collie mix, from the North Texas Humane Society. We fell in love with Max instantly, and we had him for one week before taking him back in to the Humane Society to be neutered.

The evening after Max was neutered, he sat up in his crate, and David and I noticed that his lower abdomen had filled with blood. We took him immediately to the I-20 Animal Medical Center in Arlington, TX. The vet was almost as shocked as we were to discover that Max has the extremely rare blood-clotting disorder hemophilia, which is a genetic disorder carried on the X chromosome. When a hemophiliac like Max is injured, he does not bleed harder or faster than a person without hemophilia—he bleeds longer.

Hemophilia was something Max was born with, but because he had not had a permanent home prior to us adopting him, no one had discovered he had this disorder. When Max is bruised or injured moderately or severely, or if he has to have any kind of surgery or dental work, he begins to bleed uncontrollably. To save his life, Max has to have a plasma transfusion that supplies his blood with the clotting factors it lacks.

Naturally, we have done, and will continue to do, everything we can to give Max a good life. Because hemophilia, however, is considered a pre-existing condition, we cannot get pet insurance to cover Max. Also, hemophilia is such a rare disorder in dogs that very little research has been done other than that which is for the benefit of human sufferers of bleeding disorders. No treatments or prophylaxis therapies (regular factor replacement treatments that prevent bleeding episodes before they happen) are available for dogs as they are for people.

Thus, veterinary care for Max is extremely expensive because the only way to treat him is with a plasma transfusion. Each time he needs a transfusion of even one unit of plasma, the cost is around $600-700. In the year since Max has become part of our family, we have spent over $6,500 on veterinary care related exclusively to his hemophilia. In addition to Max, we also have another small dog and four cats, so like you, much of our time (and money!) is spent with our animals.

As my husband and I have learned more about hemophilia, we realize that Max’s life is going to be filled with bumps and bruises, which are an inevitable part of even his restricted activities and lifestyle. Some of these injuries will be severe and turn into hematomas that may require him to have the expensive plasma transfusions that save him from bleeding into his joints, muscles, lungs, and body cavities and from bleeding to death. Despite this terrible disorder and all of the medical procedures he’s undergone, Max is a fantastic dog who learns quickly, is zealous and eager to please, and has a sweet, fun, and loving personality. He and I have recently become certified through the Delta Society’s Pet Partners’ program to do Animal Assisted Therapy. I think Max has a lot to offer those in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc. Already this past summer, we volunteered at the Texas Central Hemophilia Association’s bowl-a-thon, which raises money for children with hemophilia to attend a special summer camp.

Many people would have probably had Max put to sleep when they initially found out that he had hemophilia, but being a pet lover who values her animals as irreplaceable family members, I have never considered euthanizing him as an option. Max is a happy, intelligent, and otherwise healthy dog who, our vets assure us, can live a long life, although one with obvious restrictions.

Therefore, the real problem for us is not Max nor his hemophilia. The problem is being able to afford the care he will need over his lifetime. Due to the $6,500 of debt we have already accumulated, I am hoping that you will be able to guide me toward any financial aid, grants, or other monetary resources my husband and I might be able to obtain through organizations, research programs, universities, or individuals who might be willing to give us some financial assistance in caring for Max. I am contacting you in the first place because after discovering your work with dogs, I have come to respect you as an animal lover whose philosophies parallel many of my own. I also know from your work that you have numerous connections with other animal lovers around the country, and I am hoping that some of your connections may prove beneficial in helping us with Max’s healthcare.

So if you can give us any ideas, suggestions, or information regarding how we might find individuals or organizations willing to help fund even a small portion of Max’s veterinary bills, David and I would be eternally grateful.

I hope to hear from you soon and have listed my contact information below. Thank you so much for reading this and for your exceptional writing about dogs.


Erin Golden
Anonymous said…
Erin & Dave, I am so very sorry. My heart and thoughts go out to you. Max sounded like a wonderful dog.
Anonymous said…
He was a beautiful dog, and had a lovely smile.

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